by Rita Dove
In 1987 Rita Dove became one of the youngest writers to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry — and only the second African-American to do so. Now in her radiant first novel, Dove combines her remarkable storytelling ability with what critic Arnold Rampersad has praised in her poetry as an "almost uncanny sense of peace and grace." It is the tail end of the Vietnam era, and Virginia King, most recently a puppeteer with an experimental theater troupe, returns to her hometown in the Midwest to work as an "artist in residence" at a local public school. As her puppets win the hearts of her students, memories of her own childhood surface, triggering a chain of recollections — from grade school, with its subtle and not-so-subtle bigotries, to college where, as a cellist, she became involved with a brilliant and enigmatic fellow musician. But what startles her most is a visit to an elderly aunt, whose revelations about Virginia's family threaten to shatter the healing these memories bring. Seamlessly weaving together past and present, Through the Ivory Gate renders an unforgettable portrait of a period in American life and offer in Virginia King one of the most endearing heroines to emerge in contemporary fiction.
Hardcover: 278 pages